Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/170

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162
English Folk-Drama.

and rosemary." Here we have the Scandinavian or Teutonic original of the mumming-play, with which the Scandinavian sword-dance became combined after passing through the Easter play. Henderson tells us that throughout Yorkshire mummers go round visiting at houses where they know they are likely to meet with entertainment, disguised in finery of different sorts, with blackened faces or masks, and carrying with them an image of a white horse. Mr. Baring Gould tells us that "at Wakefield and Stanby the mummers enter a house, and, if it be in a foul state, they proceed to sweep the hearth and clean the kitchen-range, humming all the time 'mum-m-m'." This seems to suggest some connection with the good fairies who perform tasks of housework if properly propitiated. In Scotland, where the mummers are called Gysards, when a party of these visitants enter a house, one of them precedes the rest, carrying a besom, and sweeps a ring or space for the Gysards to dance in. This ceremony is strictly observed ; and it has been supposed is connected with the tradition concerning the light dances of the fairies, one of whom is always represented as sweeping the spot appropriated to their festivity. This may be so ; but I am inclined to connect it with the sword-dance circle.

Summarising this analysis of the Christmas mumming-play, we find that it consists of the following elements combined by the natural dramatic instincts of the folk : —

(a) The Christmas Masking or Disguising.
(b) The Sword-Dance : the character of Father Christmas being a modification of the Chorus of the Sword-Dance Play.
(c) The Pace-Egg or Easter Play.
(d) The Wassailing Rite or Custom.

I will now communicate some versions of the Christmas mumming or masking play, which I have been the means of collecting during the last two years. I have two versions fresh from Hampshire this last Christmas, one collected by